13 February 2010 | tdurgan
"Origine Contrôlée" is an entertaining and charming film about crossing borders – geopolitical, and otherwise. An interweaving of absurd comedy and thoughtful drama, it's a quirky little indie that may take you by surprise. Patrick, an average, unemployed French man, suffers the kind of bad accident of a day that more commonly happens in reality, rather than fiction, culminating with him landing behind bars, mistaken by police for an Algerian with expired papers. Before Patrick knows what's happening, he's on the lam with two Algerians, Youssef and Sonia. "Origine Contrôlée" gets us to laugh in sympathy at Patrick's predicament, and not only does this make the discomfort of his troubles easier for us to bear, it also simultaneously allows the drama to sink in more deeply. Due to his identity mix-up, Patrick is exposed to racism and a capricious justice system - facts of life that are faced by Youssef and Sonia, and by "illegals" everywhere.
Youssef reminds me so much of a Kevin Kline character, edgy with the potential for losing control. Sonia, played by the beautiful Ronit Elkabetz of "The Band's Visit," is a reluctant prostitute who helps Patrick and Youssef hold onto their heads. These three have great chemistry, and their excellent comedic timing is fun to watch. The plot's unexpected turns keep the viewer off balance – delightfully, in our case, although also nerve-wrackingly, because it's never clear along the way just how badly things might go wrong for our threesome. Some viewers might not appreciate this film's flirtation with genderbendiness, its rejection of the typical "he-man fugitive" movie template. We, however, enjoyed the film's non-dominant perspective and subversive humor, as well as its juxtaposition of the comedic, the dramatic, and the absurd. Additionally, the Algerian music was very nice, including songs sung by Khaled, the king of Rai. I look forward to seeing more films by the talented Zakia and Ahmed Bouchaala.